Letters to the Editor for Nov. 18, 2014

Was wind storm damage a natural occurrence or man-made?

The wind storm this past Tuesday/Wednesday was nothing new. We have had these types of storms every year. We occasionally lost a tree. But this one was very different.

Within a few hours, four trees fell on two of our 11-unit Lacamas Woods Homeowners’ Association (Northwest Inglewood Court) houses, causing major roof damages which forced families into hotels, where they remain today. Another house experienced less severe damage.

By the end of day 1, over 10 large fir trees had fallen on our lots, with over a dozen more in the undeveloped areas on the hill toward Lake Road. A fourth house was damaged on day 2.

This amount of tree loss and house damage was unprecedented for our neighborhood, as well as on Lake Road which was closed off for two days.

So, why was this storm so severe this time? The winds came from the Gorge, as they always do. Until this year, we had a large buffer of trees across 10-plus acres located just southeast of our street, but those were taken down to prepare for the new Lake Hills subdivision. Some of these trees were more than 150 years old. It was a brutal clear cut that could have been buffered more carefully to protect the houses in our HOA. This left our trees to take the full force of the winds, something they never had to face prior.

Additionally, the build-up of Lake Hills housing pads caused a re-routing of a natural stream that used to drain freely across the field. It is now contained on our lots and it doesn’t appear to have an outlet. After our trees fell, we were surprised to see a lot of water beneath where their roots used to be.

Our HOA expressed concern at the May 21, 2012, City Council meeting and at a April 23, 2013, hearings examiner review as to the potential impact that this amount of clearing would have on our neighborhood, citing our concerns about the potential wind and water impact as well as the instability of the hill up to Lake Road. We were told that the development passed all required inspections/reviews and that any potential wind damage was not the developer’s responsibility.

The damage is being fixed, but my neighbors are running scared, as the next wind event is certain to bring down more trees. Who takes the hit for fixing this loss of property value? The city? The developer?

Frank Hood, President, Lacamas Woods HOA